Left in Darkness (DVD)

Left in Darkness DVD (Click for larger image)Starring Monica Keena, David Anders and Tim Thomerson

Directed by Steven R. Monroe

A Stephen J. Cannell Production

Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment

What does wait for us after death? It is the ultimate question, even more significant than why there was never a sequel to The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. Is there a heaven and hell? What will send you to either? What ensues if you end up in limbo? Left in Darkness may give you some idea what to anticipate if there’s an afterlife.

Celia (Monica Keena) has had a rough life. Her mother died giving birth to her, her father ran off, and her loving grandfather recently passed away; even her imaginary friend has stopped talking to her. She still manages to keep her chin up though. But hey, it’s her 21st birthday, and she is about to set out and party at the local frat house.

It doesn’t take long for things to go wrong. One of the good-looking fellows at the party really likes Celia. He likes her so much in fact that he has laced her drink with something that has a considerably worse effect than just casual rape. Celia awakens after being raped on the bathroom floor to find that she is … DEAD!

Celia isn’t sure about what is going on, but after her dead grandfather tries to slash out her throat, it’s obvious that things aren’t sunshine and farts. Good thing a mysterious gentleman named Donovan (David Anders) is there to escort her along and teach her the rules of the world she has just entered.

Left in Darkness is a horror film that does things right on a small budget. There’s not much gore or monster action, but the story and the camera work keep it from becoming a bore. The movie creates a whole limbo world and actually plays by its rules most of the time, which is refreshing.

All of the performances are well done. The film doesn’t linger too long on people who do not matter. There is also a good bit of trickery that goes on with people you think you are supposed to be rooting for. The slightest eye movement can give away more than words can. Best of all, the characters that deserve death for their earlier deeds do in fact get it.

Left in Darkness DVD (Click for larger image)The viewer won’t be seeing much outside of the frat house and a street, but that doesn’t come off as a bad thing. The confined nature of the film works to its advantage. The amazement never ends at how much can be accomplished when you have little money but an excellent crew.

For a movie that just popped out of nowhere, there sure are a lot of nice extras shoved into this disc. A word of warning, however: Do not watch a single one of them before starting the main picture. Spoilers are plentiful in the documentaries.

“In the Darkness: The Making of Left in Darkness” is your standard behind-the-scenes featurette. Actors give their views on life, death, and make-up. The director gives a nice bit of insight into how you can make a low budget film look better. Everyone seemed thrilled about how the movie worked out, and they should be as this was a very fun ride.

“My 21st Birthday” is a very short collection of the crew trying to recollect what they did on the day of their 21st year. It sort of fails to do anything but make you ask why it is even included. The stories aren’t really entertaining, but they give you a good reason to get up and stretch before turning on the commentary track for the movie.

Audio commentaries are very hit or miss. Some flicks have such a lack of interaction between the commentators that the spectator could completely forget they have the option turned on. This is NOT the case with Left in Darkness. Director Steve Monroe and Line Producer John Duffy hardly ever let a few seconds of the film go by without contributing something to the audio track. There’s a lot to learn about the movie from listening to these two men. They desired to do so much more in terms of effects or stunts, but it never turns into bitching.

I am not sure how this film slipped by when crap like Stay Alive gets a ton of press and a theatrical release. Left in Darkness doesn’t rely on a gimmick like a video game or long-haired, pale-skinned children. Steven Monroe had to make a feature not with CGI but with actual direction and camera work. This is why the movie works so well. If horror buffs want more amazing horror films, then Hollywood needs to cut budgets so directors can no longer count on computer effects to make enjoyable movies.

Special Features
Audio commentary with director Steve Monroe and line producer John Duffy
“In the Darkness: The Making of Left in Darkness featurette
“My 21st Birthday” featurette

4 out of 5

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Mike Phalin

Mike Phalin is a contributing writer, reality television star and engineer.

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